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No silver linings to toxic positivity right now

Experts weigh in on the balance between acknowledging pains and creating opportunities for gratitude in conversations to boost mental health at the wo
Experts weigh in on the balance between acknowledging pains and creating opportunities for gratitude in conversations to boost mental health at the workplace

As mental health issues continue to rise amid the pandemic, employers and co-workers are taking proactive steps to create a more positive work environment to manage employees' mental health.

More often than not, these measures include keeping regular contact with the team and making sure that managers are checking in on more than just work tasks.

Asst. Prof. Dr Pamilia Lourdunathan
According to lecturer and clinical psychologist, Asst. Prof. Dr Pamilia Lourdunathan, there is an art to checking in and that one should be mindful of one’s conversations.

“Perhaps it is perceived as a given that one should always strive to stay upbeat and optimistic. However, telling a person who is coping with emotional loneliness, mental stress and coping with pandemic fatigue during the lockdown to look at the bright side can be unhelpful and dangerous psychologically,” Pamilia said.

Pamilia added that focusing solely on the positives and ignoring topics or issues that may elicit negative emotions invalidates the true source of anxiety, feelings, and sadness.

She said, “Well intended phrases such as ‘it could be worse’, ‘stay positive’ or even ‘be thankful’ shuts off further conversations about one’s emotional state. It is a form of toxic positivity”.

It may lead to stronger negative emotions that if let to fester may manifest in the form of physical illnesses.

Instead, Pamilia suggests that it would be kinder to acknowledge the pain a person might be experiencing and allow them the space to embrace and express what they are going through without suppression.

Train of conversations, she said, should be moved from ‘everything will be alright’ and ‘you need to move on’ to ‘it’s okay not to be okay’ and ‘let’s work on this together’. When we do this we are focusing on our internal locus of control and making these changes will help to improve the situation.

That, she said, is grounded gratitude.

“It is finding the balance between acknowledging the pain and making space for gratitude in order to form balanced emotional responses. Grounded gratitude is healthier than mindless gratitude as it shifts the sufferer’s attention towards achieving a more positive outcome.”

On grounded gratitude, a staunch advocate of conscious living and founder of Signature Market Edwin Wang said that the practice made him grounded and in return, he is able to make better decisions and that leads to achieving positive results for his business in the face of pandemic.

“As a leader in the organization, practicing gratitude is a must as what we believe, always becomes a reality. I always choose to believe that my team is awesome and they have done their best given the circumstances,” Wang said.

Edwin Wang

He added that having the mindset of leadership is very important. He is aware that sometimes the employees experience self-limiting beliefs; which affect their results and reputations.

He said, “95% of the time it happens subconsciously so as a leader I use the ‘Body Emotion Language’ (BEL) model in ontology coaching to coach them. We bring awareness to their concerns and self-limiting behavior, and with that new awareness, new possibilities can arise.”

Building a positive workplace culture needs to be developed and practised, especially during a crucial time, like the current pandemic.

The direct-to-consumer (D2C) e-commerce founder suggests having monthly all-hands sessions purely to acknowledge everyone. Every employee must feel that they are good enough and are unique by just being themselves.

In fact, the culture has been practised among the Signature Market team for 3 years. Currently, despite working remotely, they strive forward together towards their desired goal.

“Mindset is the key in creating an innovative world class company in Malaysia. Malaysian companies are still playing catch-up in this area. It is never about the fancy colourful bean bags or the fun ping pong table in the office. It is about how the leadership team treats their greatest asset which is their employees,” said Wang.

both, mystorymag